The day Astika saved the serpents in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice is celebrated as Naga Panchami. The above is a hand-drawn Naga Panchami poster above the main door of a Nepalese House in USA. The image contributed to the public domain by Regmiparwat.

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Previous Post: How Takshaka Was Protected From Falling Into the Fire

Note: In the previous post, we learnt how Takshaka was saved from falling into the fire. 

In this post, the child-sage Astika returns home after successfully saving his maternal relatives and shares the good news with his mother and uncle.

Astika returned home and touched his mother’s and uncle’s feet and joyfully told them everything that had happened at the yagna.

Vasuki and Jaratkaru were delighted that their relatives were safe. Pleased with Astika, they said, “O learned child, you have gratified us with your actions. Ask for a boon, O child. What can we do for you?”

Astika replied, “Let the snakes never harm those Brahmins and other people who cheerfully read the story of my actions with proper attention.”

Vasuki said, “O nephew, it will be exactly as you say. And let me also say that anyone who calls to mind Astika, Artiman, and Sunitha shall have no fear of snakes.”

Vasuki, however, did not stop with these two boons. He wanted to grant one more boon to bring glory to his nephew. He said, “If anyone accosted by a snake says the following words, the snake will not bite him, and, in case the snake does bite him then that snake’s hood will be split into a hundred pieces like the fruit of a Sinsa tree.” 

The words designated by Vasuki were: “I call to mind the famous Astika, born of Jaratkaru, that Astika who saved the snakes from the snake sacrifice. Therefore O fortunate snakes, it is not correct for you to bite me. May you be blessed O snake of virulent poison. O snake, now leave remembering the words of Astika after the snake sacrifice of Janamejaya.”

Astika was also pleased to hear his uncle’s words. 

The child brahmin had saved his maternal relatives from the sacrifice and also having sought safety for humans who remember him when accosted by a snake. Thus having completed his deeds with snakes and humans, Astika left his relatives and went away to live on his own. When his time on earth came to an end, he ascended to heaven leaving behind sons and grandsons.

Note: According to The Mahabharata, reciting this story removes the fear of snakes.

In the next post, we will find out the names of the snakes who perished in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice.

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Next Post: Names of the Snakes Who Perished in the Sacrifice

In Bali, Hindu Brahmins are called Pedandas and Brahmin priests are called Sulinggih. Both men and women can be a Sulinggih. The image above shows a woman – a Brahmin priestess.

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Previous Post: Takshaka Seeks Indra’s Protection

Note: In the previous post, we read about the difference between how Takshaka and Vasuki responded to the threat of Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. Takshaka sought personal protection from Indra, while Vasuki, wanting to save his family and race, called out to his sister, Jaratkaru, for help.

In this post, we’ll read about how they asked Jaratkaru’s son, Astika, to bring an end to the snake sacrifice.

Calling his sister, Vasuki said, “O sister, my legs are burning and I can’t see anything clearly. I’m about to lose consciousness. I’m feeling numb and heartbroken, I think I too might fall into the sacrificial fire created to exterminate our race. O sister, O best of women from the race of the serpents, your marriage with Rishi Jaratkaru was performed to save our family and race. Your son, Astika, has been designated by Brahma Deva himself to put an end to Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. It is time, dear sister, to request Astika, who is learned in the Vedas and respected by the noble sages, to perform his role and save the serpents.”

Jaratkaru, the serpent lady, called her son and said, “O child, my brother bestowed me in marriage to your father for a special purpose. The time has come to fulfil that purpose. O son, you must do what needs to be done.”

Astika replied, “O mother, please tell me the reason why you were married to my father. I want to understand everything and take the correct actions.”

Jaratkaru, the great serpent lady, remained calm and steady even though she was aware that snakes were perishing in thousands and explained everything to her son. She said, “O son, a long time ago, Kadru, the mother of the snakes commanded her sons to make the tail of the celestial horse (Uchchaisravas) appear black because she wanted to win a bet with Vinata. However, her sons refused to do her bidding and she cursed them in anger. She cursed them saying they would perish in a sacrifice performed by King Janamejaya and would then go to the realm of unredeemed spirits. Brahma Deva himself assented to the curse as soon as it was uttered.” 

Then Jaratkaru told her son how her brother, Vasuki, played an important role in the churning of the ocean. After the ocean had been churned and the devas gratified by drinking the amrit, Vasuki approached them for help to save the serpents from perishing due to Kadru’s curse. The devas accomplished Vasuki to Brahma Deva to request him to nullify the curse and save the serpents.

Brahma Deva assured Vasuki that, in the future, a sage called Jaratkaru would marry a maiden by the same name and their brahmin son would bring relief to the snakes.

After explaining the background events to her son, Jaratkaru said, “Hearing Brahma Deva’s words, my brother Vasuki, the best of snakes, bestowed me in marriage to the high-souled sage, Jaratkaru, sometime before the snake sacrifice began. O son, O child of godlike looks, you were born from that marriage and now the time has come for you to protect us from this danger. O son, what are your thoughts on this matter?” 

Astika immediately replied, “Yes I will protect the serpents.” Then he spoke to his uncle, Vasuki, saying, “O great being, O best of snakes, please do not be overcome by worry. I will relieve you and the serpents from this curse. I have never uttered a lie even in fun, so nothing more needs to be said. I will go immediately and convince Janamejaya, with proper words and blessings, to stop the sacrifice.”

Before leaving, Astika assured his uncle that his resolve would not go unfulfilled.

However, Vasuki, being afflicted by the curse (and maybe also the sacrifice) said, “O child, my head is swimming and my heart is sinking. I’m not even able to distinguish the different points in the space around me.”

Hearing his uncle’s words, Astika once again assured him saying, “O best of snakes, please do not worry about the fire of this yagna which, right now, looks like the fire that blazes at the end of a yuga. Please be assured that I will extinguish it.”

Note: In the next post, we will find out what happens when Astika reaches the site of the snake sacrifice.

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Next Post: Astika Reaches the Location of the Snake Sacrifice

A Brahmin family, 9th century. Prambanan, Indonesia

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Previous Post: Vasuki is Anxious About the Future of the Serpents After Jaratkaru Leaves his Sister

Note: In the previous post, we read about Vasuki’s anxiety when the rishi left his sister. Vasuki was concerned about the future of the serpents because it was prophesied by Brahma Deva that the son born of the union of Rishi Jaratkaru and his sister would save the serpents in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. His anxiety was reduced when his sister assured him that before leaving the rishi had said there was an embryo growing in her womb who was born from their union.

In this post, we will read about that child’s birth.

In due time, Vasuki’s sister gave birth to a son who was resplendent like a celestial child. His birth came as a relief to his paternal ancestors (Jaratkaru’s Pitris who were hanging upside-down on a single cord of root) and maternal relatives (the serpents he would save in the future).

The child grew up in Vasuki’s house and studied the Vedas and their branches under the tutelage of Sage Chyavana (Bhrigu’s son). This child-sage observed rigid vows from a young age. He was also intelligent, virtuous, saintly, knowledgeable, and unattached to worldly indulgences.

This child was named Astika, which means “whoever is,” because his father, (Rishi Jaratkaru) had said “there is” in reference to an embryo in his wife’s womb before leaving for the forest.

Even though he was still a child, Astika was very different from the other boys. He possessed the maturity and intelligence of a much older person. Being raised with great love and care in the palace of the serpents, the young brahmin looked like the illustrious lord of the celestials, the golden Mahadeva, and the serpents delighted in watching the noble child grow.

Note: The next post adds one more link to the impending snake sacrifice, in the form of King Janamejaya finding out the details of his father’s death and vowing to avenge it.

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Next Post: Janamejaya Inquires About the Circumstances of King Parikshit’s Death

Vasuki wound around Lord Shiva’s neck

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Previous Post: Jaratkaru Leaves His Wife

Note: In the previous post, we read about how rishi Jaratkaru found a completely insignificant occasion to get displeased with his wife and leave. Without taking sides, I’ll simply say why he acted with such callousness. The marriage between him and Vasuki’s sister was for a specific reason. Once the reason was fulfilled, he wanted to release bondage to the material world and return to his penances. Therefore, he found a reason to get offended which would help him leave.

In this post, we will read about the discussion an anxious Vasuki has with his sister after the rishi left.

After Jaratkaru left, his wife immediately went to her brother, Vasuki, and told him everything that had happened. Hearing this made Vasuki feel even more miserable than his sister.

Vasuki said, “O sister, you know the reason for your marriage to the high-souled rishi. A son born from this union will save us all in the snake sacrifice. Brahma Deva, himself, had said this in the presence of all the gods. O sister, have you conceived as a result of the marriage with the great rishi?”

Vasuki was uncomfortable asking these questions to his sister, but, considering the welfare of the snakes, he had no other choice. He said, “O amiable sister, I know it’s improper for me to ask you this question, but the gravity of the situation is such that I have to ask. Tell me in detail everything that has happened in the relationship between you and the high-souled rishi. Tell me everything and remove the affliction that troubles my heart. 

The Naga princess consoled her brother and said, “When I asked the rishi about offspring, he said, ‘There is,’ and went away. He has never spoken a lie even for fun, so I don’t think he would say something that’s not true on such a serious occasion. He told me not to grieve about the result of our union. He said that a son, resembling a blazing fire, will be born. Therefore, O brother, release the deep sorrow from your heart.”

His sister’s words brought peace to Vasuki’s heart, and he said, “So be it,” and the chief of the snakes adored his sister with his best regards, wealthy gifts, and beautiful eulogies.

Meanwhile, the embryo in the Naga princess’ womb began to develop with light like the waxing moon.

Note: In the next post, we will read about rishi Astika, the son of Vasuki’s sister and the high-souled rishi, Jaratkaru.

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Next Post: Rishi Astika is Born

Jaratkaru leaves his wife’s house to resume his ascetic penances

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Previous Post: Jaratkaru Marries Vasuki’s Sister

Note: In the previous post, we read about the marriage of Jaratkaru with Vasuki’s sister and the conception of their child (although Vasuki’s sister didn’t know she had conceived).

In this post, we will read about the incident where Jaratkaru leaves his wife’s house to return to his ascetic penances.

One day Jaratkaru was sleeping with his head on his wife’s lap. He looked very tired and slept till the evening ‘sandhya’ when the sun was about to set. 

This put his noble wife in a dilemma since the rishi was both punctual and particular about performing his religious ceremonies at this time. On the one hand she was afraid of waking him up and offending him, and, on the other hand, she was concerned that if he did not do his evening ‘sandhya’ ritual before twilight turned into night, he would lose his virtue. 

As she reasoned with herself, she concluded that a virtuous person losing his virtue was a greater loss than facing his anger. Speaking in a sweet and gentle tone, she said, “O fortunate one, the sun is setting. It’s time for your evening sacrifices, perform your prayers after purifying yourself with water and saying Vishnu’s name.”

The great saint, thus awoken by his wife, was outraged. His upper lip quivered as he said, “O pleasant one of the Naga race, you have insulted me. I strongly believe that the sun does not have the power to set while I am sleeping. It is said that an insulted person should not live in the place where he has been insulted, this is especially true for virtuous people. 

Hearing these words Jaratkaru’s wife trembled with fear. She said, “O Brahmana, I did not wake you up to insult you. I woke you up to help you maintain your virtue (which had been accumulated by Jaratkaru through regularly performing the evening prayers).” But these words had no effect on Jaratkaru who was possessed with anger and desirous of leaving his wife.

The rishi said, “O fair one, I have never lied, therefore I must do what I have said, and leave this place. It was clearly decided between us that I will leave the moment you say or do anything that displeases me. O pleasant one, we have lived happily, therefore, after I leave, tell your brother that Ihave left, and do not grieve for me.

Vasuki’s beautiful sister was filled with fear and sorrow and her face turned pale when she heard these words. However, she mustered the courage to fold her hands and say these words to her husband, “It is not correct of you to leave me when Ihave not committed any fault. You tread on the path of virtue and so do I. My heart has been fixed on the welfare of my serpent relatives. The reason for our marriage has not yet been accomplished. We do not have any offspring as yet. This offspring is destined to save my relatives from their mother’s curse. How can I tell my brother that you have left and what will my brother say? O noble brahmin, the welfare of my relatives depends on our child. Moved by compassion for them, I request you to not leave me. O excellent brahmin, you are a high-souled person. I simply cannot understand why you are leaving me when I have not made any mistake?”

Hearing his wife’s words, the rishi said that which was proper and suitable for that moment: “O fortunate one, you have already conceived a high-souled rishi who is learned in the Vedas and their branches. This child, in your womb, is resplendent life Agni himself.”

After speaking these words, the great rishi of virtuous soul left with his heart set upon resuming his ascetic penances.

Note: In the next post, we will read about the conversation Vasuki and his sister have after Jaratkaru leaves.

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Next Post: Vasuki is Anxious About the Future of the Serpents After After Jaratkaru Leaves his Sister

Manasa Devi with husband, Jaratkaru, and son, Astika, flanked by Nagas

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Previous Post: Jaratkaru Finds His Wife

Note: Note: In the previous post, we read about how Jaratkaru cried out to the beings of the forest for a wife and how the chief of the serpents, Vasuki, offered his sister’s hand in marriage to the rishi.

In this post, we will read about the marriage of Jaratkaru and Vasuki’s sister.

Convinced by Vasuki’s promise to maintain (financially) his sister, Jaratkaru, the excellent brahmana of rigid vows, well-versed in mantras, married Vasuki’s sister according to shastric rites. 

Vasuki had prepared a special room for his sister and the rishi. It was a delightful room that had a bed covered with expensive sheets. Vasuki’s sister, adored by the rishi, entered the room where they took up residence.

Soon after marriage, Jaratkaru made an agreement with his wife. He said, “You must not say or do anything that displeased me. If such a thing happens, I will leave you and this house, immediately.”

The rishi’s words made his wife sad and anxious. However, she agreed, saying, “So be it,” because she wanted to help her serpent relatives. That maiden of pure reputation attended to the rishi day and night. Her care for the rishi is compared to the wakefulness of a dog, the timidity of a deer, and the knowledge of interpreting signs like a crow.

One day, after her menstrual period, she purified herself by bathing according to custom, and approached the rishi. She conceived that day, and the embryo was resplendent like fire and, filled with immense energy, it grew like the waxing moon.

Note: Note: In the next post, we will read about the rishi, Jaratkaru, leaving his wife

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Next Post: Jaratkaru Leaves His Wife

Devi Manasa (also known as Jaratkaru). Image credit: By anonymous –, CC0,

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Previous Post: Jaratkaru Places a Condition for Marriage

Note: In the previous post, we read how Jaratkaru felt great compassion for his pitris but also placed a condition for getting married.

In this post, we will find out how Jaratkaru found his wife.

After assuring his Pitris that he would try his best to find a wife and also having explained his conditions for marriage, Jaratkaru wandered to different places to find a wife, but being old, he could not find any woman who was willing to marry him. This failure to find a woman who would marry him gave Jaratkaru much grief. So great was his grief that he went into a forest and wept loudly. However, he also felt immense compassion for his pitris, and from this desire to do something good for them, he said three times, “I will ask for a bride. I will ask for a bride. I will ask for a bride.” 

Jaratkaru looked around and said, “O creatures who lives here, whether mobile or immobile, visible or invisible, please hear my words. My ancestors are grief-stricken and have instructed me to marry for the sake of extending the lineage. I have roamed in poverty and sorrow to different places to obtain a wife who is bestowed on me as alms. O creatures, if any of you have a daughter, bestow her on me as a wife. I will only marry a maiden who has the same name as me and I tell you, (now itself), that I will not be able to maintain her.”

“O creatures,” Jaratkaru cried aloud again, “bestow such a maiden and let her be my wife.”

Note: You might remember, from a previous post, that Vasuki had convened a meeting of the serpents to find a way to neutralize Kadru’s curse. At that time, one of the serpents called Elapatra narrated what he had heard from Brahma Deva when he sat shivering after being cursed. He had heard that an ascetic called Jaratkaru would marry Vasuki’s sister (who was also called Jaratkaru) and their son would protect the snakes in Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice. At that time, Vasuki had asked a group of serpents to follow the ascetic and inform Vasuki when he set out in search of a wife.

When Jaratkaru cried out for a wife in the forest, the serpents Vasuki had deployed to follow him, immediately went to Vasuki and informed him about Jaratkaru’s inclination and arrival in the forest. 

Upon hearing this information, Vasuki asked his sister to get ready. She decked herself with ornaments and they both went to the forest to meet Rishi Jaratkaru. Vasuki, the chief of the snakes, offered his sister as alms to the high-souled rishi. 

When Jaratkaru heard Vasuki’s words, he paused and reflected before giving an answer. First, he asked Vasuki his sister’s name and told him that he would not be able to care for her needs.

Vasuki replied, “O best of brahmanas, my sister’s name is also Jaratkaru, the same as yours, and she has ascetic merit as well. Moreover, do not worry about maintaining her because I will take care of her and also protect her with all my powers. O great ascetic, I have raised my sister to marry you.”

Jaratkaru replied, “Alright, then I will marry her on the condition that she does not do anything to displease me. If she does such a thing, then I will leave immediately.”

Note: In the next post, we will read about Jaratkaru’s marriage and the birth of Astika.

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Next Post: Jaratkaru Marries Vasuki’s Sister